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Humor In William Shakespeare's Merry Wives Of Windsor

2781 words - 11 pages

Humor in William Shakespeare's Merry Wives of Windsor

Through history, there have been many explanations at to why
Shakespeare wrote the “Merry Wives of Windsor”. Some have argued that
the play was written for the Garter Ceremony held on April 23, 1597,
when the patron of Shakespeare’s company, Lord Hudson, was installed;
supposedly, the play was later revised for public performance, around

Shakespeare wrote the “Merry Wives of Windsor” as a comedy, however it
does not obey all typical conventions of a Shakespearean comedy as
noticeable differences in the plot show. Key parts of the play in
which Shakespeare creates the main humour are the scenes in which the
wives manage to humiliate and deceive Falstaff, a fat knight with a
devious mind and inflated ego.

A convention used repeatedly in this play to create verbal, and
physical humour, is disguise and misunderstanding. Within the
category of disguise and misunderstanding comes incongruity and ironic

In act 3, scene 3, the wives have discovered Falstaff’s identical
letters to them both, and have secretly planned their revenge on him.
The fact that the wives received the same letters in the first place
shows the audience how little Falstaff actually cared for the women,
and shows his desperation. This has a great affect on the audience’s
reactions. The audience is pre-warned of the wives’ plans and early
jokes by Mistress Ford prepare them for the visual humour approaching.

“Without any pause or staggering take this basket on your shoulders:
that done take it among the whitsters in Datchet-mead, and there empty
it in the muddy ditch close by the Thames side.”

In the recent RSC production, a washing line, 1940’s mangle, and the
large buck-basket were on stage as an additional hint to the audience
of the 1940 setting, allowing them to enter further into the collusion
of the wives. As the scene progresses, the starkness of their plans
becomes increasingly obvious, particularly by the stage language, such
as “act” and “cue” used by the two ladies.

As the time comes for Falstaff to get into the buck-basket, he
realises that he still needs to keep open his options between the two
wives, and follows Mistress Ford around the stage still with the
intention of wooing her. However Mistress Page keeps Falstaff at arms
length both linguistically and physically. He then proceeds to turn
his attention to Mistress Page even after claiming that the idea of
him liking Page was like walking “by the Counter-gate” which is as
hateful to him as “the reek of a lime kiln”. He continues to approach
Mistress Page professing his love for her and asking for her help to “creep”
into the buck-basket, an uproarious to anyone, the thought of Falstaff
creeping anywhere! Falstaff is undeterred by any obstacles making him

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